Well here’s a surprising rumor for your Friday night.
According to Bruce Levine, citing a major league source, the Chicago Cubs have spoken with Michael Bourn’s agent about the free agent center fielder.
Some brake-pumping before I get into the merits:
(1) The Cubs are likely to do due diligence on virtually every single free agent, so conversations with his agent might be little more than that.
(2) Scott Boras, Bourn’s agent, is known to be all too happy to circulate stories like this when they involve a large market team having interest in one of his big-name free agents. It helps drive up the price.
(3) The Cubs are not expected to “go for it” in 2013, and big money free agent’s like Bourn are unlikely to be a part of the near-term plan, all rumors aside.
(4) How likely is Bourn to come to a team like the Cubs, unless they overpay massively, or buy up a bunch of other free agents in the near-term to show an immediate commitment to winning?
That all said, you guys know my mantra: you have to sign free agents when they’re actually available. If the Cubs believe Bourn can be an important piece of, for example, the 2014 team, well, they’ve got to sign him now if they want him.
Is Bourn the right fit? Well, candidly, I’ve never been a fan of going all in on Bourn as a free agent. He’s going to command a contract in the vicinity of – OK, probably north of – the five-year, $75 million deal B.J. Upton just signed with the Braves. Bourn is turning 30 later this month, and he is, inarguably, a “speed” guy (i.e., a guy who derives a great deal of his offensive and defensive value from being very fast). They tend not to age well, and you’d think Theo Epstein might feel a little nervous about signing another 30ish speed guy to a huge deal after Carl Crawford’s debacle in Boston.
Bourn obviously does a lot of things very well – he gets on base, he sees a lot of pitches, he disrupts on the bases, and he plays stellar defense in center field. I wouldn’t hate to have him on the team. I’m just not convinced that a six-year, $90 million deal for him is the best use of the team’s resources in the coming years.
Interestingly, when asked today about pursuing outfield options, GM Jed Hoyer noted that the Cubs wouldn’t overlook veteran additions in the outfield because of their prospects, saying that the best ones are still years away. In other words, if the Cubs *did* add someone like Bourn, it would likely have no impact on Albert Almora or Jorge Soler’s development (there will be two additional outfield spots open within a year or two at the latest regardless, with Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus under team control through only 2014). Further, many see Brett Jackson – if he makes it as a starter in the bigs – as a corner outfielder, so there might not be a meaningful impact there, either (or, Jackson could become a trade piece).
That’s all my long and winding way of saying what I’ve said before: I think the Cubs should be looking very hard at the outfield free agent market, and should be willing to commit to a big timer if they feel it’s the right fit. I’m not sure Bourn is that guy, but I’ll sure be giving it some thought now. Gut says: this doesn’t make a ton of sense.
We’ll have to see if anything more comes of this. If the Cubs really do have legitimate interest in Bourn, I can say with certainty that they aren’t planning on having a 100 loss team for another couple years. You don’t sign a speed guy entering his 30s to a huge deal unless you’re going to be planning on winning some games in the next couple seasons.
Final thought: if the Cubs really do pursue Bourn, I see absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t also have interest in someone like Anibal Sanchez. Bourn did receive a qualifying offer from the Braves, by the way, so he would cost the Cubs their second round pick, a very minor consideration (and, arguably, an advantage for the Cubs.)